by ALEXANDER VOLTZ – THE claim circulating at the moment is that a cumulative $40b a year is spent, notionally, on Aboriginal Australians.
It now seems that those Aborigines – be they of fair or dark skin – who live conveniently within distance of the Sydney Opera House have been quietly scoring yet another exclusive privilege, this time at the box office.
Unbeknown to the majority of concertgoers, several Australian arts organisations and institutions have been offering heavily subsidised ticketing based on the claimed ethnicity of their patrons.
For instance, while non-Aboriginal Australians are being charged $145 for one particular upcoming Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) concert starring international superstar Anne-Sophie Mutter, Aboriginal Australians, for the same reserve seating, are paying only $15.
The SSO, however, is not alone in this egregious pricing scheme, collectively called “Mob Tix”.
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO), The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Opera House, the National Gallery of Australia and the Sydney Fringe Festival are all signed up to the initiative.
In fact, the MSO extends its race-based discount beyond Aboriginal Australians to include “Maori, Pasifika and First Nations people from other countries” as well.
The irony, of course, is that this measure comes from an orchestra so financially embattled that in 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it stood down its full-time musicians to avoid bankruptcy.
The Sydney Opera House, reportedly, even offers Aboriginal Australians free tickets to some of its productions, under the guise of “inclusion and participation in the arts”.
When this first broke in The Australian newspaper last month, I was shocked and appalled, but my horror has been compounded upon subsequently learning that this practice has been quietly in place for years.
Non-Aboriginal Australians, particularly white Australians, might as well think of themselves as second-class patrons of the arts.
Either they are being taxed unduly, for the actual price of a Sydney Symphony Orchestra ticket is only $15, or they are paying extra on their own ticket to fund a discount of 867 per cent for their countrymen.
I suspect – and would go as far as to suggest that I know – that it is a case of the latter.
The Australian Ballet, brazenly, corroborates as much when it admits in its Terms & Conditions: “By not selecting Mob Tix if you are not eligible you are supporting the Australian Ballet to continue offering accessible-options to our community.”
Incredibly, across all the organisations and institutions that offer Mob Tix, none require patrons who select the discount to provide proof at checkout that they are, in fact, Aboriginal.
So the whole premise of this race-based ticketing scheme can, it turns out, be effortlessly defrauded.
And perhaps that is exactly what frustrated non-Aboriginal Australians should do.
If there is a demographic that should be most affronted by Mob Tix, it is art students.
If you’re a young, studying artist, a concession ticket to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Birds of Tokyo concert still sets you back at least $47 – and that’s for a seat so poorly placed it affords only a “restricted view”.
Those claiming to be Aboriginal Australians pay only $13.
It’s expensive to strive towards success in the arts, as well as to remain visible in arts circles – trust me.
One would think that if a discounted ticketing scheme to the extent of Mob Tickets were to be implemented, it would predominantly strive to assist those who are to be this country’s future creators.
Another ridiculously obvious truth, of course, is that Western art – and, more broadly, Western music – is not at all the historic cultural property of Aborigines but rather those of Australians of European descent.
Putting it bluntly, Indigenous people did not write symphonies, play violins nor build concert halls prior to 1788.
Over the past few decades, however, activists have successfully hijacked Western art, largely irrespective of medium, and what limited cultural infrastructure exists in Australia to suit their belligerent agenda.
For example, it is now a pre-requisite in, as far as I am aware, every major Australian concert hall and theatre for performances to begin with a 60-second Welcome to Country procedure.
I know of one prominent Brisbane business, Tribal Experiences, which charges $1320 for every Welcome to Country its employees provide. For a Smoking Ceremony, its prices climb as high as $5,005.
As well, many arts organisations and institutions, for reasons that I have touched on previously, have been forced to declare – or, at least deceived into declaring – their support for the Voice referendum.
The SSO is the most recent State orchestra to do so. Given its embrace of Mob Tix, I suppose it was only a matter of time.
As a closing anecdote: The Albanese government’s new national cultural plan, “Revive: a Place for Every Story, a Story for Every Place”, could not be more manifestly mistitled. (I’ll believe as much when a mainstage opera company produces a new work that in good faith that recounts the voyages of Captain Cook.)
The very first actionable clause of Revive is a commitment to – yes, you guessed it – “implementing in full the Uluru Statement from the Heart”.
For there to be a bright future for the arts in this country, artists must throw off the shackles of government
There can be no place for race-based arts policies in a truly egalitarian and erudite Australia.PC